S'pore schools to start full home-based learning from May 19 amid spike in Covid-19 cases

Schools will provide instructions and support for students to access a range of both online and hard copy materials. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - All schools will start full home-based learning (HBL) from Wednesday (May 19) until May 28 when the school term ends, amid a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in the community.

This applies to all primary, secondary and junior college students, as well as those from Millennia Institute and special education schools.

The mid-year GCE O- and A-level mother tongue examinations will proceed as planned, with strict safe management measures in place, said the Education Ministry (MOE) in a statement on Sunday.

During the HBL period, schools will provide instructions and support for students to access a range of both online and hard copy materials, so that learning continues uninterrupted. They will also help students who may require digital devices or Internet access.

"Schools will remain open for students who require additional support. In particular, parents working in essential services or are unable to secure alternative care arrangements may approach their children's primary schools for assistance," MOE added.

Institutes of higher learning will convert more classes to online learning where possible until June 13, when the current set of tightened measures end, or further notice, with the exception of essential in-person sessions such as labs, practicals and final-year projects.

Singapore had reported 38 community cases as at Sunday noon, of which 18 are currently unlinked.

Explaining why MOE chose to implement HBL instead of bringing the school holidays forward, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said the measure is meant to reduce activity outside the home as much as possible.

Parents and educators have given feedback to say they would like students to be meaningfully engaged in the next two weeks, and HBL achieves part of this objective, he said at a virtual press conference on Sunday evening.

He also noted that schools prefer to have additional time to wrap up teaching for this term, rather than carrying this forward to Term 3. The June school holidays run from May 29 to June 27.

"We don't know what will happen in Term 3. If we load everything onto Term 3, it can be very stressful on students, parents and schools," the minister said. "So taking into account the feedback, we thought it is meaningful to move to HBL for the remaining seven days."

The move to full HBL comes after seven primary schools earlier implemented it as a precautionary measure after several of their pupils tested positive for Covid-19. The cases are linked to tuition centres, and none of the pupils appeared to have caught the virus while in school thus far.

All centre-based tuition centres and enrichment classes must move activities online till June 13 or further notice, to reduce interaction between students from different schools, said MOE.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (left) and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing at a press conference to announce home-based learning for schools from May 19. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Mr Chan said pre-schools and student care centres will remain open to support families who require their services, but he encouraged parents to keep their children at home where possible, if they are able to do so.

He also laid out his ministry's approach to allow students to continue taking classes in a safe school environment in future.

This will involve using new and faster testing methods to ring-fence affected schools, so that lessons in other schools can continue.

It also includes vaccination of school-aged children once the vaccines have been approved for younger age groups, he said.

Remote video URL

"We all know that home-based learning over a prolonged period will have certain limitations," Mr Chan said.

"So going forward, if the community situation doesn't warrant it and we only have sporadic cases in schools, we will be able to use more targeted measures to ring-fence schools that are affected, while allowing other schools to continue to operate."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.